Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction: Spinal Injury
The Effect of Injury and Erectile Dysfunction
Not all effects of erectile dysfunction are caused by physical or psychological changes in the body. Some effects of this condition are caused by external sources, such as spinal injury, which can lead to poor sexual performance.
The Effects of Spinal Cord Injury
Each year, there are approximately 10,000 new cases of spinal cord injury with eighty percent of those injuries occurring in males between the ages of sixteen and thirty. The spinal cord is very sensitive to injury. Unlike other parts of the body that have the ability to heal, the spinal cord lacks the ability to repair itself if damaged. Spinal cord injuries are the result of damage from physical trauma (such as falls, physical violence, or sports-related injuries), loss of normal blood supply, or compression from a tumor or related infection. Spinal cord injuries are classified as either "complete" or "incomplete." Depending on the level of severity, there can be a complete or partial loss of sensation and muscle function in the body below the injury level.
Loss of Normal Sexual Function
Erectile dysfunction is a common difficulty in men with spinal cord injury. Only twenty-five percent of men with spinal cord injuries are able to maintain an erection considered adequate for sexual intercourse.
Spinal Injury Treatments to Restore Virility
As erectile dysfunction is an underlying problem of a much larger condition, one of the first actions to take is to relieve the overall effects of a spinal cord injury. This can be accomplished through two major goals:
- 1) Relieve any pressure found on the spinal cord. This surgical procedure may involve removing sections of a patient's vertebrae that have broken and compress the spinal cord. For tumor, infection, or arthritis, surgery can also be performeded to reduce the compression.
- 2) Surgically stabilize the spine. If the vertebrae are weakened from fracture, tumor, or infection, they may not be able to support normal body weight. In this instance, metal rods, screws, and plates may be needed to hold the vertebrae and stabilize the body until the bones heal.
Currently there is no cure for spinal injury, but new drug treatments are being researched in an attempt to lessen the effects of erectile dysfunction as a result of injury. Tadalafil is one example of an oral drug that is used in treating impotence. While researchers are doing tests to see how successful such medication can be, the initial results have shown to be helpful for patients. However, as with any medication, side effects are to be taken into consideration. Side effects for this medication include:
- Facial flushing
- Stomach upset
- Flu like symptoms
- Low blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Changes in color vision
- Premature ejaculation
It is important to check with a physician to see if this type of medication can be safely used without any adverse side effects.